Avengers: Endgame finally hit theaters this week, and it’s already smashing box office records and taking its place as one of the highest rated films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, one moment in the movie is causing some debate amongst LGBTQ fans. Marvel boasts that this film has the first openly gay character in the MCU, and while that’s sort of true, it definitely leaves something to be desired.
Warning: Mild Spoilers Ahead
In the film, Steve Rogers/Captain America leads a support group for people who lost loved ones to the Thanos snap. One of the members in the group reveals that he finally went on his first date since The Decimation, and based on the “he” pronouns he uses, it’s clear this character is gay. The moment packs a mildly extra punch since he’s being played by Joe Russo, one of the movie’s directors. However, the fact that he plays an unnamed character with a few lines almost feels like a slap in the face to the people waiting 22 movies to see themselves represented onscreen. Sure, we’re glad to have confirmation that gay people exist in this universe, but it feels too little, too late.
In fact, many fans have joked that the way Natasha Romonaff/Black Widow sits in a chair or Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel’s new haircut are much gayer than anything said by Joe in the film. (For our non-queer readers, Carol’s hair is pretty self-explanatory, but it’s an ongoing joke in the LGBTQ community that queer people have trouble sitting properly in chairs.) You can see more reactions on Twitter here.
It’s worth mentioning that Joe and Anthony Russo aren’t fully to blame for this misstep. At least they tried, which is more than we can say about the other 15 directors in the franchise, but that doesn’t mean they did the best they could. There are much better ways this could have gone. First of all, a gay character with a name would have been pretty cool. A gay character with a name who also happens to be an Avenger or a person close to the Avengers would have been much better.
For example, the recent DC Extended Universe film, Shazam!, had a more hopeful intro to their first LGBTQ character. Pedro Peña may have only casually dropped that he’s not interested in girls, but the fact that he’s a part of the Shazam family adds weight to this declaration. Not only do we know that we’ll likely see this character again, but we’re also going to get to see him be a hero.
In addition to being what some people are calling “tone deaf,” many fans of the Marvel television shows are annoyed that Avengers: Endgame is taking credit for the first openly gay character in the MCU. There are multiple queer characters in Jessica Jones, Runaways, and Agents of SHIELD. However, those character’s existence do not change the fact that 11 years worth of blockbuster films have avoided the subject altogether.
With any luck, Joe Russo’s character will be a stepping stone into a much more inclusive MCU, but for now, it’s just not enough.
Avengers: Endgame is now playing in theaters everywhere.
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